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Torah Commentary
P'kudei (March 9, 2013)

Saul Kaiserman,
Director of
Lifelong Learning

EACH MONTH, our Shabbat Kodesh family worship service features a dramatic, interactive skit based on the week’s Torah portion. The creation of this script is a collaborative and intentional process, incorporating methodologies pioneered by the organization “Storahtelling.”

Around six weeks before the service, Rabbi Ben Zeidman and I meet to review the Torah portion for the week of the service. We are looking for the lessons that are applicable to our lives today — or in Storahtelling language, the “bull’s-eyes” of the Torah portion. We always try to come up with three or four directions that the script could take.

For this portion, Vayak’heil, some of the ideas we proposed included these based on Exodus 35:1-3…
    • In this Torah portion, the Israelites are commanded not to kindle fire on Shabbat, but they are permitted to use a fire built prior to the start of Shabbat. From this, we learn that resting requires preparation — like planning for a vacation.

    • In one interpretation of that same passage, “fire” is viewed as a metaphor for “anger.” The message: Argument can be as much of a disruption of the Sabbath as engaging in physical labor.

…and then turned our suggestions over to Megan Sass and Shawn Shafner, our playwrights. As they do each month, Megan and Shawn write out a few possible scenarios for the script based on our bull’s-eyes. In this case, they discarded the suggestions above, turning instead to our notes on the following three verses, Exodus 35:4-6…
    • In order to build the Sanctuary that will house God’s presence on earth, the Israelites are told to bring “gifts of the heart.” Each of us has gifts to share, but to build something holy and of great significance, we all need to work together.

We carefully explore each scenario to determine which one is truest to the text of the Torah and best articulates the message of these verses. We consider, and abandon, several ideas for scripts, including one in which a child doesn’t want to participate in a party and one where a family is trying to build a sukkah. In the end, the story we decided to tell is of a Religious School class trying to create a prayer space together.

Our scripts (just like this website) always include an opportunity for the community to share their own ideas. In Storahtelling language, this is the “stretch,” where we go beyond the text of the Bible to think about the relevance of the lesson to our own lives. This month, we will ask the children and adults at the service to share their ideas about the role of community in making space sacred.

I hope you will be able to join us for worship this Friday…or another one. Shabbat Shalom!

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